Meeting Notes: A Complete ‘How To’

Sometimes its part of someone’s job description, but more often than not, just as your meeting is about to get into full swing, the lead will say “Right, and someone needs to take notes”. This is even more likely these days, with virtual meetings happening over Skype or Zoom making it even more important that everyone is on the same page at the end of the day.

No one wants to take notes, and why would you? You’re now unable to take a quick day dreaming break, and you have extra work to do once the meeting’s finished. You have to type the notes up, put them in proper English and then email them to the members of the meeting (who likely should have been taking notes anyway!)

Nevertheless, while this article can’t take the pain out of additional work, it can help you ensure that your notes are important, relevant and as least time-consuming as possible. These tips can be used either during the note taking process, or afterwards, when you are consolidating your notes into something worth distributing.

Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

Tip 1: Point and Action

Similarly to our essential guide to email crafting, you only need the essential information. Essential information has many different meanings, and so one way of sorting this is by using a point and action method.

As always, let’s look at an example. Say this is an extract from your notes from a recent meeting:

“The Spring fundraiser was extremely lucrative and definitely looks worth doing again next year. Doesn’t need organising yet. We could have done with more staff (Make sure they get paid for their hours). Profit generated will need to be divided across all sectors, so will be discussed the next time the heads of department sit down.”

You could send this round in an email and zero people would read it. But try changing it into a point-action format.

  • Spring fundraiser was a success – TO DO: Determine date for organising next year’s
  • Staff have not been paid yet – TO DO: Pay part-time staff
  • Profits to be distributed- TO DO: Arrange interdepartmental meeting

Suddenly, everything you’ve noted has purpose. The reasons for having the meeting in the first place become clear, and action is more likely to be implemented.

Tip 2: Assign Responsibility

So the above version is much better, but let’s go a step further. Take the last note, setting the date for the following year’s fundraiser. That seems it could be anyone’s responsibility. So, either in the meeting or afterwards, add the responsibility to your notes. This would look like this:

  • Spring fundraiser was a success – TO DO: Determine date for organising next year’s
    (Annie to set date)
  • Staff have not been paid yet – TO DO: Pay part-time staff
    (Betty to send list to accounts)
  • Profits to be distributed- TO DO: Arrange interdepartmental meeting
    (Claire to email HODs today)

This also means that employees can look out for their name and see the parts of the meeting most relevant to them. The likelihood of these three tasks getting done will also increase dramatically.

Tip 3: Dare to be brief

As you can see from the above example, beautiful flowing prose is unnecessary in meeting notes. They are just that: notes. You need the key information only. And if this tip seems short, just know that it could be shorter.

Tip 4: Carry this attitude forwards

If you haven’t already done so, this system can clearly be used to help structure your meetings in the future. How many times have you listened to people waffle on about this and that, without any real relevance.

Some additional information and debate is obviously useful, but with a point-action system in mind, you are more likely to have constructive and purposeful meetings that drive your project forward.

Has this been useful?
What other tips would you give?
Topic suggestion?

Let me know!

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